What causes teeth stains?
Teeth stains are normal and inevitable and may be caused by factors like ageing, long term tobacco usage or the consumption of certain food and beverages that contain staining agents, such as coffee, tea and wine. To correct these stains, you may consider teeth whitening.
Are all teeth stains the same?
Not all teeth stains were created equal. They include:
- Extrinsic Teeth Stains: These are surface stains, most commonly caused by smoking, coffee, tea and wine. Extrinsic teeth stains occur when stained particles accumulate in the film of protein that cover your teeth enamel. Extrinsic teeth stains can be easily removed through regular dental cleaning and brushing with whitening toothpastes.
- Intrinsic Teeth Stains: These are internal stains, most commonly caused by an over exposure to fluoride at an early age, childhood fevers or trauma in an adult tooth. Unlike extrinsic stains, intrinsic stains happen below the surface of your teeth. Intrinsic teeth stains accumulate within your developing tooth. Removing intrinsic teeth stains may require bleaching by a professional or a layer of material to mask the colour (composite or porcelain veneers).
- Age-Related Teeth discolouration. This could be both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. As we get older, the enamel that covers the teeth becomes thinner over time from abrasion such as tooth brushing, which allows the colour of the dentine to show through. Extrinsic factors such as smoking and excessive consumption of acidic food could result in staining, and intrinsic factors such as chips or injuries to the teeth could result in the discolouration of the teeth.
- Root canal treated teeth. Previous long-standing root canal treated teeth can also discolour due to the drying out of the tooth over time. These teeth required dental crowns to reinforce them and correct the discolouration.
What are some teeth whitening methods?
- Regular cleaning: Most surface stains can be removed with just a simple dental cleaning with your dentist, however, more stubborn stains are unable to be removed. For those with deeper and stubborn stains, you may look into doing resin laminates or Porcelain Veneers to change the colour and mask deeper stains.
- Teeth Whitening (Bleaching): Teeth whitening is good for individuals who do not have terribly stained teeth and still have a good amount of enamel. While teeth whitening will enhance the colour of your natural teeth, it will not remove existing stains, which may result in a greater colour difference. The only active ingredient in Dental Whitening is Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide is a chemical ingredient used to whiten teeth. Due to regulations, only approved dental practices are allowed to use teeth whitening products with a concentration more than 5% of Hydrogen Peroxide. Most chair-side bleaching systems would use a 30% Hydrogen Peroxide concentration as your dentist is trained to protect the gums during the process. Do check with your dentist to see whether you are suitable for bleaching.
- Take-home whitening kit: Patients who prefer to undergo treatment from their own home can request for a custom-made whitening tray from the dentist. Take-home whitening kits are a lot less convenient as patients have to use the trays every day for an extended period with no breaks in between. However, the whitening process may take a longer time and may not be as effective as the in-house bleaching with the dentist.
- Over-the-counter products. Popular over-the-counter products include teeth whitening strips. We do not recommend over-the-counter whitening products as they are generally ineffective. As mentioned, only dentists are allowed to use teeth whitening products that contain more than 5% Hydrogen Peroxide. Hence, majority of these over-the-counter whitening products use Sodium Perborate to ‘whiten’ teeth instead. What Sodium Perborate does is merely does it to temporarily lighten teeth instead of whiten them.
How do I maintain my white teeth after teeth whitening?
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Adopt a dental routine that consists of brushing daily and regular flossing to avoid plaque buildup. Plaque is what makes teeth appear darker than it is. For extra protection, use a toothpaste that protects against staining.
- See a dentist regularly. Besides regularly cleaning your teeth at home, a dentist can give professional cleaning and polishing that help effectively remove surface stains.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea and red wine. A surefire way to stain your teeth is through continuous consumption of food and drinks with staining agents. If you find it hard to give up your coffee or tea, consider using straws or rinse your mouth immediately after consumption.
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid coloured foods
You may eat or drink anything during the first 24 hours after whitening, but it may reduce the longevity of the result. Therefore, it’s especially important to avoid the above-mentioned factors during the first 24 hours.
Is teeth whitening safe?
If performed by a skilled and professional dentist, teeth whitening is generally safe. That being said, certain products or treatments may result in health consequences. As such, before undergoing any form of teeth whitening, it is important to check whether the particular product or treatment has been clinically approved.
How long does teeth whitening last?
Teeth whitening is not permanent. While the effects of teeth whitening will vary among people, generally, the effects last for about 1 to 3 years depending on method and brand. This highly depends on your diet and lifestyle habits. Individuals who smoke and/or consume alcohol can expect their teeth whitening effects to be shorter.
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